Survey reveals businesses are facing a "sustainability crunch"

by Search Gate staff. Published Fri 26 Jun 2016 11:52, Last updated: 2016-06-26
Firms are finding it increasingly difficult to manage sustainability policies

Businesses are finding it increasingly more difficult to implement and manage sustainability policies, according to research by the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM).

The annual BIFM Sustainability Survey, now in its ninth year, reveals a 20 per cent decline in confidence among businesses in their ability to implement and manage their environmental, sustainability and CSR policies compared to 2014.

Despite sustainability pledges featuring within all of the political manifestos this year, the response from business appears muted, with 40 per cent of respondents saying they thought their organisation was ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ at implementing sustainability, compared to over half (60 per cent) last year, and 43 per cent in 2013.

This noticeable drop coincides with a reported increase in barriers to fulfilling sustainable practices. Physical constraints were highlighted by 80 per cent of respondents, while financial constraints (71 per cent) and a lack of organisational engagement (69 per cent) were the next most commonly cited obstacles, requiring organisations to sharpen their focus and modify their sustainability strategies if they are to reap the benefits of long-term sustainable business practice.

The annual survey, this year in collaboration with Cambium and Acclaro Advisory, explores how UK organisations are approaching sustainability, what the key drivers and barriers to their sustainability policies are, and how they could be improved.

In addition, the survey also found that over a third (36 per cent) of respondents had no formal reporting system or data collection process when measuring effective sustainability outputs, resulting in a lack of evidence when it comes to building and reinforcing the business case of sustainability among leadership teams.

Furthermore, a distinct disconnect between the perceived importance of sustainability among varying tiers of management is apparent. Despite 81 per cent of CEOs and senior management reporting sustainability as being a very important issue for their business, only 61 per cent of middle management and 63 per cent of front line management reported the same. This suggests a dilution of messages as they are passed through the business, and the need for greater alignment, collaboration and communication of sustainability priorities.

Gareth Tancred, CEO of BIFM said, “Despite increased pressure on businesses to be more sustainable, we are actually seeing a decline in their ability to do so. What is clear from our findings is that organisations need to re-think their approach to sustainability in the face of increasing barriers. In nine years of conducting this survey, 2016 has seen the biggest year-on-year decrease recorded and historically, sustainability has been dominated by a tick-box mentality by business which is undermining the long-term value of sustainability investment.

“Whilst it is encouraging to see so many organisations regarding sustainability as an important part of their corporate agenda, businesses must adopt more formal processes to monitor and measure progress and avoid a short-termist view of sustainable business practice. What is needed to address the ‘sustainability crunch’ is more collaborative working, to look beyond purely environmental connotations such as energy consumption, climate change and waste management, and integrate policies aligned with societal sustainability, such as the Living Wage. The risk of not doing so is that organisations are accused of only paying lip service to sustainability.”

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